Dear Carolyn: I recently started dating “Mike.” We get along well and have fun together.
Several times a day, Mike will text me how happy he is we are dating, then ask if I feel the same. If I don’t respond with enough enthusiasm, he is hurt and assumes I am losing interest.
And he always finds some way to be touching me – holding hands, arm around my waist. I am not very “touchy-feely.”
This is driving me crazy.
My friends seem to think he is just insecure and I should be grateful to have someone who is obviously so interested. I feel smothered, rightly or wrongly, and am about to “accidentally” break my phone. I am having a hard time tactfully explaining that I need more space. I am afraid of hurting his feelings. – Anonymous
When something irritates, oppresses or, especially, creeps you out in a relationship, never ignore that feeling. Never resolve to “be patient” for some larger cause, no matter how sparkly your friends make the cause seem. Your alarms are going off. It’s not just (past) time to heed them; it’s also time to look deeper into why you’re so uncomfortable with setting boundaries, and with telling a clingy man to step off.
Meanwhile, you’re not even serving your “First hurt no feelings” goal. It’s impossible, for one. And, only three things can happen here:
1. You can love the way Mike shows love.
2. You can not love it, and tell him so.
3. You can not love it, and try and try to be “nice,” all the while leading him to believe things are going great, until you finally go AAAUUGH! when you simply can’t abide being touched.
These are listed in order of escalating pain to Mike, no?
So here: “Mike, I feel smothered – I’m uncomfortable with this much text and touch and torch-carrying.”
Ouch, yes, but waiting indefinitely for a visit from the tact fairy is cruel. Tough break, Mike. If you respond to a hard truth by sulking, though, that’s on you.
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